Round and About in Old Isleworth

The Council has received an offer from award winning sculptor, Anthony David Padgett, to donate (at no cost) to Isleworth a cold-cast sculpture associated with artist Vincent Van Gogh.  In comes in 5 different finishes (brass, bronze, copper, aluminium and slate), and the suggestion is it could be sited at Isleworth Leisure Centre/Library.  This is part of an Anthony Padgett project of similar offers for sites associated with Van Gogh and his life; France and Belgium have already accepted.  Isleworth is being considered because, although not then necessarily having ambitions to be an artist, he lived and taught at Holme Court, Twickenham Road in 1876 when it was a school.  This offer could well be seen as a great opportunity to promote tourist and cultural links in the area.  

The bust captures many of Van Gogh’s features, received an award for “work of exceptional quality” by the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston and praised by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam as “very remarkable indeed”.    It is in 3 parts, the bust 35 x 17 x 23cm and 11kg and combined with 2 bases is 59 x 32 x 40cm and 30kg.   The bases incorporate 19thC antiques, including the same kind of pipe as on the famous Vincent's Chair painting and a pistol similar to that with which he is believed to have shot himself; books are the earliest first editions of his letters (1906 - 1914) and sunflowers from Arles where he painted many of his most famous works.

A condition of the donation is that the work be permanently displayed in or outdoors. The sculpture would be delivered with plinths but fixing needs to be carried out by the Council.     Details of Anthony Padgett’s 2017 project “A Year With Vincent Van Gogh” which includes 67 oil paintings and 6 works of contemporary art can be seen on 
www.ayearwithvincent.co.uk

The Council’s Local List recognises buildings, structures and sites acknowledged as contributing to the local character and distinctiveness of a given area.  These can be recognised through architectural, historical, townscape or social significance or a combination of these.   Hounslow last updated its List in 2012.  Under a current call for nominations TIS submitted 10 ranging from plaques sited outside West Middlesex Hospital main entrance which chart evolution of Brentford Union Workhouse into the current hospital build, to busts of Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton and John Farnell in Isleworth Library.  Both of these are the work of Henry George May a local sculptor and represent Victorians who were notable Isleworth benefactors. These nominations are in addition to previous ones made over the years covering c100 buildings and structures felt by TIS worthy of the protection Local Listing adds.  Earlier nominations are as varied as St Bridget’s Presbytery, Twickenham Road, Town Wharf Public House on the river front, a George Vl pillar box in Grainger Road and cobbles in Linkfield Road.  At the end of the consultation period there will be a lengthy assessment programme to decide which nominations Boroughwide will be chosen, with the final outcome not expected until 2019.

Reliable word has it the voluntary run Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Activebase, has striven hard and met its obligations to achieve handover of management of Isleworth Public Hall.  The proposed arrangement is that this will include a three-month mobilisation period before they fully take over the reins.  However, the Council still has to complete its side of the necessary formalities to bring the transaction to a successful conclusion. The only response to an enquiry at Isleworth & Brentford Area Forum as to the timing for finalisation was “discussions are on-going”.

At an earlier Isleworth & Brentford Area Forum meeting TIS asked what actions Members and Officers were taking to actively promote and support commerce in South Street given several vacant retail premises in addition to a restaurant and public house.  Councillors response was that “the authority worked closely with Brentford Chamber of Commerce to support small and medium sized enterprises.  Approximately £1.1m financial assistance had been delivered to help businesses during the year 2017/18 and the authority would continue to do as much as it could to support business across the borough in the coming year via its Economic Development team”.

Staying with South Street, in April last year TIS raised the issue of the poor condition of the pillar box and enquired when all boxes in the area might receive some attention.    Initially Royal Mail indicated the South Street one would be renovated with others to follow.   Now this is said to form part of their “paint plan” to spruce up 36 post boxes in the TW7 area in their year 2017/18, namely by the end of March. Unfortunately, it has not yet prompted any actual action.  TIS remains on the case.

At nearby Upper Square TIS was concerned about a gradual greening of the Glossop Memorial renovated not so long ago; enquiry revealed this to be a build-up of natural algae.  While it can be removed by a steam clean the algae is likely to recur.  For the time being the decision has been taken to leave things as they stand but keep a watchful eye in future.

In respect of 14-15 Shrewsbury Walk a consultation was held as to naming of the new build taking place. Among suggestions were Penghern, Sabrina (Latin for River Severn, in case you are wondering) and Hafern (Alfon Hafern being Welsh for River Severn).  TIS felt these names, with their vague connections to the Earls of Shrewsbury, did not reflect sufficiently the history of the area.  Our suggestions were Ayres the Victorian heroine, Alice, who lived in adjacent Magdala Road and Weld after Francis who started a boys’ school that has evolved into St. Mary’s Primary School.  The Local Studies Librarian confirmed these to be more appropriate than the others. Despite several objections submitted on the original names, the Council has chosen “Sabrina” which on the face of it seems to negate the whole purpose of the consultation.

A great deal of anguish has been caused by increasing use for unauthorised parking on the hard landscaped area at Lower Square designated to be pedestrianised.   Many has been the pleas not only by TIS but other residents to Hounslow Highways to reinstate and lock the two bollards that should be in place to prevent vehicle access from Swan Street. The opportunity was also taken to reinforce earlier requests for renewed litter bins in Lower Square, akin to what is there now but including lids to prevent waste being raided by pigeons or blown by the wind.  Last but not least a reminder has been relayed that it was indicated months ago that the perimeter railings would be painted but this is still awaited, as is painting of the bollards in adjacent Church Street.

Isleworth Bowls Club had its beginnings in 1934 situated in a secluded corner of Redlees Park beside the stables.  Today a friendly group there offer a range of related activities open to all comers.  From April free taster sessions are being held each Wednesday evening.  Do just go along or call Alison Fremantle on 07946 974 06, for more details. Installing the new children’s equipment at Redlees is progressing albeit slowly.  It was scheduled to re-open “in Spring” but this appears to be flexible.  Trees-For-All planted an orchard with a variety of fruit trees in the triangular area near to the play area behind the Explorers Club earlier in the year.  TIS expressed reservations before this was carried out that the chosen location could impede vehicle access for fair ground and other events.  This concern still stands.  Thornbury Park has also benefited from a similar orchard although no progress has been made there in cudgelling Network Rail into removing the extensive graffiti on their plant adjacent to and highly visible within the park.

During February and early March the Duke of Northumberland’s River at Riverside Walk underwent a transformation intended to improve habitat for a range of wildlife, including invertebrates such as damselflies, birds, herons and fish.   This involved installing a small aquatic shelf along the western bank together with an array of plant life which when grown should show an improvement in the aesthetics of this stretch of river.   Elsewhere attention has been drawn to LBofH that the new signage installed for the Duke’s River Walk is in need of some adjustment; as examples, one directs people towards the dead end off Braddock Close, another is immersed in a tree canopy.

Hounslow Men’s Shed is an independent local charity operating under the umbrella of Men’s Shed UK.  Its aim is to provide workshops and opportunities to undertake practical engineering and craft activities within a social environment, with the aim of avoiding issues of social isolation and depression.  On 17th March, The Venerable Stephan Welch, Archdeacon of Middlesex, cut the ribbon to celebrate opening of facilities within the chapels of Park Road cemetery.  Originally the thought had been to make it an outside event but it was such a bitterly cold day the assembled crowd squeezed into one chapel to be fortified by ample refreshments. A large amount of cleaning up has taken place within the chapels, some equipment installed although there is still apparently the matter of raising c£125,000 to install electricity as it will not be possible to operate fully with only the current generator.

Staying with the topic of the cemetery, TIS still awaits LBofH’s confirmation of the latest round of allocations of S106 and Community Infrastructure Levy monies in the hope it will include funding to add to that already put aside from this source to enable restoration of the damaged ornamental pillars at the main entrance.  Additionally, it has not escaped notice that the Council has committed an extra £200,000 investment to improve the cemetery services with a new strategy due to be launched in the summer providing a blueprint for the future.

Early in March the Council applied stickers to various street litter bins as well as installing hanging banners stating “We are not messing – dump rubbish in the street and we will fine you £400”.   A welcome initiative in an endeavour to drive home the message that dumping household rubbish in the streets is as anti-social as dumping a mattress or bulkier items.  

Since the advent of fortnightly wheelie bin collections fly tipping has increased threefold making LBofH one of the worst offending Boroughs in London.   A sample survey of dumping hotspots in Isleworth two weeks after the sticker initiative revealed very limited improving effect.  Hounslow Highways are tasked to remove dumped rubbish within 48 hours of it being reported; this can be done either via their website www.hounslowhighways.org or by calling 020 8583 2000.  Street litter bins should be emptied daily but dealing with the increase in fly tipping, undertaken by eight crews, has restricted their ability to complete this task to schedule.  

On a brighter note, Hounslow Highways has been responsible borough-wide for replacing with LED lanterns 15,093 street lights (including 362 heritage style).  It is claimed this has saved 55% of the Council’s annual energy bills.  Strangely several in Isleworth are still to be changed and this should be completed by the year end.

Hounslow’s state of the art Recycling Materials Handling facility at Southall Lane, Hayes opened its doors for a day in March.   Currently it processes some 500 tonnes of residents’ recycling and has the long-term ambition to take on outside contracts.  This is the reason given for it operating through a Council wholly owned limited company, Lampton 360, which provides the opportunity for profits to accrue and pass back to the Council’s coffers.   To say it is an impressive operation is an understatement.  The biggest hazard is fire – apparently countrywide there is one a day at recycling plants and this plant has already suffered one.  For this reason the massive shed where the main operations take place includes flood gates. If an occasion arises, the gates move into place to enable flooding akin to the shed becoming a massive swimming pool.  The millions of gallons of water needed for this are stored nearby in huge vats.  Smaller fires are contained by quarantining individual bays. 

During the site tour of the Recycling facility, emphasis was given to what can be recycled and what is not acceptable, with reasons for the latter.  Batteries of all descriptions are a definite “no no” being one of the biggest fire risks.  Tops should be removed from plastic bottles making it easier for them to be crushed, with it being helpful if bottles, cans, and plastic is rinsed before putting out to minimise odours.  Left over food in plastic containers renders them incapable of being recycled; likewise, plastic bags and film cannot be processed at this plant and can cause damage to the sophisticated sorting machinery employed.  A disconcerting aspect of the plant is the regular high-pitched howl of a pigeon-scarer!

March proved popular for Open Day events.   The Green School for Boys held drop in sessions to explain their proposals to complete the current provision at Busch Corner, which will eventually accommodate c800 children from Year 7 to 11, with the addition of a purpose built 6th Form block.  It is proposed this will be located in Quakers Lane on the site of sister school, the Green School for Girls, to provide a full range of post year 11 subjects fulfilling a lack of local places for boys to complete their education.

Among reasons given for the Mogden Sewage Works Open Day was to enable residents to learn about the many improvements that have taken place in the recent past at what is one of Thames Water’s largest wastewater treatment works.   Tours of the site were available, nature trails and children’s activities provided, along with a chance to meet people who work there and give feedback and provide input into future investment plans.

People seem to be discovering the new riverside path from Heron’s Place to Richmond Road in front of what has returned to its original name of Isleworth House.  When implementing the link between the old and new paths damage was caused to the perimeter fencing leaving a sheer drop between path and River Thames within the new development site.  This has now been rectified.  The opportunity was also taken to raise with LBofH the need to amend signage at Herons Place which still states it is a “No Through Route”. Richmond Road would benefit from signage indicating the new path entrance and in addition TIS backed the suggestion a barrier should be installed on Richmond Road outside the entry point as a safety measure in view of the narrow pavement.  All this has been taken on board but implementation is likely to take some time.

Work at Gunnersbury Park and Museum, is progressing well with the aim the latter will open shortly where one of the new exhibition galleries will showcase its varied collection of dress and textiles which is of national importance. A great improvement can be seen in the grounds especially to the Orangery and Horse Shoe Pond, installation of wood carved sculptures adds interest and a new cygnet arrived on the Round Pond last November.  The re-built café is already open and includes space to show off the carriage collection previously rather inappropriately housed within the former Rothschild family home.

To complement re-opening of Gunnersbury an illustrated book by Val and James Bott is scheduled to be published incorporating many new discoveries about the estate’s history.  A call is also out for volunteers to help in a wide range of ways in the museum or on projects such as growing historical plants in the themed gardens.  Some opportunities already show on their website http://www.visitgunnersbury.org/get-involved, or if interested email  Angharad at HowellAn@ealing.gov.uk to find out more